In 2007 Waltham Forest Council appointed Renaisi, along with Shared Intelligence and Hawkins Brown, to help them develop a place shaping vision for the borough examining the issues and options for physical, economic and social change.

Place Shaping is about clarifying an area’s distinctive identity. In 2007 it was seen by central government as the primary function of local government in its role of community leadership.

About Place Shaping

The duty of place shaping is essentially that local government should take responsibility for the wellbeing of the area and its communities, reflecting its distinctive identity and promoting its interests and future prosperity. It involves a focus on developing the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the local community and the local area. The responsibility therefore goes beyond the Council’s narrowly defined service responsibilities. In line with the modern role of local government reinforced and extended by the White Paper (“Strong and Prosperous Communities”)  councils are obliged to take a lead on place shaping but to facilitate the participation of key stakeholder partners (this would include broad engagement via the Local Strategic Partnership) both in defining the sense of place and in putting into effect the actions necessary to achieve it.

Some areas do have a clear identity which has been well thought through, is supported by evidence and is well marketed on that basis. But they are exceptional. Most, at best have clarified what sort of identity they want; while others have an identity they do not want; some places mean different things to different people; and some have no identity at all.

Part of the place shaping process is to clarify what identity the area currently projects, what the preferred identity for the future is and shaping the place in that mould.

Our approach

We were tasked with producing something to help facilitate the development of a vision for the borough that is robust and long-term with social, economic and environmental issues identified and reconciled rather than there being conflicting aspirations.

Our methodology had three key stages:

  1. Where we are now – baseline research into current social, economic and environmental factors, trends, policies and plans.
  2. Key drivers of change – a report that looked at the key social, economic and environmental pressures and trends including those that derive from regional, national and international policies and considerations; and which examined also the spatial dimension of the key drivers and the impact on connectivity. The report facilitated the debate about where Waltham Forest wants to be as a borough and the issues in getting there.
  3. Scenario workshops – these workshops were used to review the stage 1 and 2 reports; build a shared understanding of the drivers of change in Waltham Forest; consider how the borough was likely to develop; explore what would happen if the borough ‘did nothing’; agree a preferred scenario for the future direction of Waltham Forest and what further work was needed in order to ensure that the preferred scenario could be achieved and embedded in the sustainable community strategy and Local Development Framework strategy.

The place shaping vision for Waltham Forest 2027

The final place shaping report includes a vision for Waltham Forest where the quality of life enjoyed by residents will have improved markedly along with the prosperity of its businesses.

Waltham Forest’s vision was one of a sustainable community driven forward by clear sighted civic leadership that fully embraces significant population growth and diversity, provides the required number of good quality homes and support services in an environment of tolerance, cohesion, high liveability, and achievement. Importantly, many of the more prosperous residents will have stayed in Waltham Forest, because schools and health services are good and families feel safe.

The evidence that informed Waltham Forest’s vision for the future and their confidence that, ambitious though it is, it is achievable is included in the full study.

Find out more about Renaisi’s work in places and with communities.